When Should You NOT Paint Wood Furniture?


Painting “perfectly good wood” is controversial. Don’t believe me?

If you’re a DIY’er that paints furniture for any length of time, I’m certain someone has opened their mouth and gasped: OMG, you paint wood?! Why would you do that?”

…riiiight after you proudly showed them how awesome your piece looks after you spend 6 hours painting it.

Not the best feeling in the world.

In fact, you feel rather crappy after that kind of criticism.

I mean……we all know that solid wood is the almighty indication of quality furniture, and to slather on a superficial coat of paint??–gasp!–how dare thee.


The Real Truth About Painting Wood Furniture

Want to know the real truth about painting wood furniture?

It’s not the end of the world.

It’s paint. It can be stripped years from now, if you’d like. And most times, that piece of wood furniture was taking up space in some thrift store, or someone’s curb side, and you (the awesome DIYer), saw its potential and breathed new life into it.

We should actually get an award for being so green, eh? :)



When Not To Paint Wood Furniture


But is there a time when you should not paint wood? 

Yes, there is. Before you jump in to any project, you do have to consider these situations to make sure you’re making the right choice. Here are those times when you should put down the paint brush and step away slooowwwly


STOP:  If Grandma is Rolling Over In Her Grave

Grandma would be P.O.’ed if she knew you were painting over her antique hutch. She adored it. And every time you think you might take a paint brush to it, you cringe at the thought of Grandma smacking the brush out of your hand.

If you can’t bring yourself to do it because of guilt, then just leave it alone. Maybe pay someone to strip it and re-stain it back to its original beauty. Or, if you want to try to strip and stain it yourself, check out my YouTube video tutorial on how to strip furniture and stain it. At least this way, Grandma will be smiling down at you instead of waiting to lecture you at the gates of Heaven :).


STOP: If You Just Bought a Can of Rustoleum

Yikes! Hold it right there! Some paint is just not made for furniture. That includes a can of tar-like Rustoleum paint. That’s what happened to a friend who had the great idea to paint this beautiful, expensive chair with black Rustoleum paint (see below).

The result?

Horrible black, chipped paint that destroyed the wood. She ended up hiring me to see if I could strip it. WHEW! Tough job of getting black paint out of nitty-gritty cracks. Just don’t paint wood if you’re going to use the wrong paint. My favorite is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, which is made for furniture and looks amazing on wood.

Stripped Chair Collage

STOP: If You Haven’t Consulted Papa Google (or Mama eBay)

One splash of paint and you’ve just ruined something you could sell on eBay for three or four figures. Do your research first and find out how much your piece of furniture is worth before you paint it, especially if it just looks like something so rare and special.

This almost happened to me! Remember this amazing Anco Bilt vintage drafting table I found at a thrift store for $30? I had no idea it was valuable! I almost painted it!!!! Until I searched Google and found that one has sold for $325 on eBay! Now, it’s in my thrifted crafting room, “AS IS.” And I love it, flaws and all :).

If it looks really valuable, it probably is. Don’t paint it if you’ve got a real gem on your hands!

Drafting Table

STOP: If You’re Just Trying to Be Cool and Trendy

Painted furniture is hot right now. But trends go in and out of style. Painting chevron stripes all over a perfectly good wooden buffet that had not one scratch on it may seem like a good idea. But in 5 years, it may be outdated. Then you may want to strip it, creating more work for yourself.

Only paint furniture because you love the look of it, not because you’re trying to emulate someone else’s look. Be true to your own decorating style.

With That Being Said……

Don’t just listen to me. Use your own gut to determine what you want to paint and not paint. These are merely guidelines for when you take on your next furniture painting project. It’s your house that you will be decorating, and you’ve got to live in it. But don’t also destroy a piece of ancient history or a family heirloom because it’s the “in” thing that people are doing.

My Vintage Chair Makeover

So when I found this $60 vintage chair at the thrift store, I had no qualms about painting the frame and replacing the fabric. It wasn’t my my Grandma’s…..it wasn’t an antique…..It was just a lovely chair begging for some TLC. Such a beauty! I did get a couple negative comments about painting the wood, though…


Vintage Chair Makeover BEFORE99.jpg


But the “after” was to pretty and updated, who could really complain, ya know?

A Vintage Chair Makeover



So has anyone ever criticized you for painting wood furniture? How did you respond?

Did you like this article? See more of my posts:

If people get a little sassy with you, here are a few articles you can read to throw things right back at ‘em. :) Enjoy!

Your 2 Cents

Okay, now I want to hear from you. Do you ever think there are times when you should NOT paint a piece of wood furniture? Leave a comment below! :)



Tags: ,

About the Author ()

Hey there, I'm Serena, a 37-year-old working mom of 3 young boys who can't get enough DIY! If you actually made it to the bottom of this post to read this, it means you're really enjoy my blog. That means SO much. If I can inspire just one person through my passion and energy for DIY, then I'm fulfilling my life's purpose. Thanks for joining me, and I hope you'll subscribe so we can keep in touch! ~Serena

Comments (45)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Jodi Jackson says:

    Great article, you shouldn’t follow trends! I love painted furniture but I love wood too. I always say if it’s going I. Your home and it yours, do what’s going to make you happy and fit into your style.

    • Exactly! I actually try to stay away from trends. It just makes me feel unoriginal. It’s about what you love, though. And if you someone loves painted furniture and really even wants to paint an antique, I say, GO FOR IT as long as you know what you’re doing :)

  2. Sharon says:

    Great article. I don’t paint furniture, but have considered it. I think I will stick with just cleaning up the good pieces and calling it a day. Some of your creations just make me hyperventilate, they are so wonderful. You are so talented.

    • Awww…Sharon, that is so sweet of you! I’m glad you like my work. I think you should definitely try it out. Go to the thrift store and find a cheapie wood end table or something that, if you don’t like it, you could always just donate back to the thrift store if it doesn’t turn out how you like it. And see what you can come up with! You may find that you really enjoy it! :) Thank you so much for leaving a comment! I really appreciate it! :)

  3. Blondie says:

    Great post Serena. I agree with you 100%. Have an awesome weekend and I can’t wait to see the vanity after pictures.

  4. I love how you broke this down. I completely agree with all of your points. I’ve definitely had those debates myself!

  5. Sheri says:

    Question: how did you find out about what you had on eBay with that plan table? That’s awesome!

  6. Linda says:

    If the piece of furniture is very high quality worth thousands may be hold off the paint. But most of us don’t have that kind of pieces. Painting a piece of furniture gives it own identity. The person painting it can put their own foot print on this special piece. I’m all for painting be creative and have most of all have fun.

    • Yeah, I know I don’t have any piece worth thousands! But even with my drafting table, just knowing I paid $30 for it, but it’s worth over $300, would deter me from painting it! Plus, I love the uniqueness of the wood. Oh, but get this–!! My 7-year old carved his name into it!!! EEEEKKK! I had no idea until I looked down when he said, “Look, Mommy!” Umm…..I guess it’s probably worthless now. HAHAHA

  7. Teresa @tessiescreations.wordpress.com says:

    I received a beautiful 1900’s dining set and I was so excited because I really wanted to paint the sideboard. Then my Dad said if I painted it “May the wood Gods curse you” That was enough of a reason not to paint it. Now I am on the hunt for another sideboard that is free or really, really inexpensive.

    • OMG, too funny!!!! I think a lot of time men are the ones that don’t understand painting wood. My husband used to say to me all the time, “WHY are you painting that?!” And it could be some funky old wooden thing that nobody would care about. But in your case, yeah, 1900’s seems like such a real treasure. You wouldn’t wan to destroy it! THEN AGAIN…..if a piece doesn’t gel with your home decor, but it’s antique, I guess you could still paint it so that you can actually USE it rather than collect dust on it in the garage. I guess you would just have to fight some big-bad wood Gods. HA! Thanks for sharing that!!!

  8. Kelly T says:

    Good post!
    I grew up with my Grandma and Mother, when Grandma wanted to change something she either painted it or wallpapered it! There were only a few pieces that she left alone and they are in my house now, an entry table with inlayed wood and her bedroom suite. I had the table redone several years ago and she said it was more beautiful than when she got it. The bedroom suite is still as beautiful as it was in the 1950’s although she did wallpaper the inside of the drawers lol Like you said, you have to go by your gut and do what you think is best but there is nothing wrong with changing things, even if they are worth a lot of money…do what makes you happy!

  9. Dorothy says:

    I must admit, that I would have a really hard time painting a piece of solid wood furniture. I would not judge anyone who did because I have seen some lovely results,

  10. Kandi says:

    Great post! I love the old antique look but sometimes some paint is ok. There are things that I cringe and think why on earth would you paint that. But other’s were I think wow that would be pretty if it was a certain color.

  11. Daniel Lloyd says:

    There are several woods are use to make furniture they all have there special appearance it self without any paint just polishing is enough to make them shiny . The painting tips and painted pieces you showed above are good job and it is easy to give your wishing color to wooden furniture .

  12. Susan Routh says:

    A really good article.
    I am a restorer and seat weaver and have only just started painting stuff as it goes totally against my instincts. I have a shed full of antique chairs waiting for surface restoration and caning/rushing and some will need to be glued up as well.
    I could spend dozens of hours on one chair, getting it fully restored and then, still I would not get more than £30-£50 for it. However, if I paint them; I will spend a fraction of the time on the restoration and they will sell for more. Many of these have been given to me or have on cost a few pounds. If I don’t paint them, they are likely to end up on the woodburner!
    This is England, by the way, where even real antiques ie 100 years and older are worth very little. Prices for antiques dropped dramatically after 9/11 as you chaps from the good old US of A stopped coming over to rescue them.
    I only use water based paints (Autentico) so it will be easy to remove. Stripping furniture using sandpaper is actually worse for the furniture than just painting on top of existing finish.
    Please come back….!

    • Hi Susan! Yep, seems that painted furniture is all the rave lately. I had a vintage booth for just a short period of time earlier this year and that was the nature of furniture there, too: painted things sold much faster. I’m sure that it will swing in the other direction in so many years–painted furniture will be out and natural wood will be in again. It’s great that you’ve got skills in both areas so you can roll with the times :). Thanks for commenting!

  13. Sarah J says:

    Found this article on Pinterest. The wood I want to paint is our baseboards and door frames. But how can you paint good wood?! Still working on that… I made just rip it all down and install new. I’d stain new… Great article!

  14. Very nice article!! Your post is truly great inspiration for many of us. I really like the make over of vintage chair, gorgeous look!!

  15. I picked up a dresser off a home sale and my husband was so against me painting it that it sat in our garage for months and months!
    I finally made the time to do it, when the weather allowed, and we both love it!
    I probably could have resold it for way more than I bought it for ($30), but I had been looking for a great dresser for a long time and a few coats of black paint and some crystal knobs were exactly what this one needed to be perfect for us.

    • Awesome! Glad you were able to prove it worthy of paint! My husband is the same way. He’s very “pro-wood” but I can usually convince him that refinishing is a great idea AFTER he sees what it looks like! :). thanks for commenting!

  16. Erin says:

    Great considerations when itching to paint. When I feel a smidge of guilt for painting the cooler old pieces, I remind myself that we painters are creating a great bunch of work for the future fad of stripping chalk and milk paint. Some bright person will concoct a low odor, beautifully packaged line of tools to help the DIYers! It’s the evolution of creativity and capitalism :D
    Thanks Serena!

    • I literally LOL at your comment!!! HA! It reminds me of the wallpaper craze in the 70s and 80s. They sure put a hurtin’ on these older homes that have us steaming the crap off, with puffs of hot steam making our hair stick to our necks while peeling it off! It’s all cyclical, isn’t it?! HAHAHA!

      OMG, maybe we should be designing the tools now!!! You know…create the need AND find the solution so that when we’re at retirement age, we will already have the patent in place for the “Amazing Ultimate Stripping Contraption” for only $59! HAHAHAHA!

      • Erin says:

        PERFECT! “Introducing an amazing lifestyle product by Serena Appiah. Are you ready to bring back the nostalgia of beautiful wood? Let Serena give you the best industry tips and tricks to restore your treasured furniture.”

        Nicole Curtis from Rehab Addict put old painted hardware in a crockpot. A crockpot could easily be repackaged with a snazzy logo that includes a set of matching brushes. But wait there’s more! Matching silicone gloves!

        HAHAHA, just imagine how hair will stick while steaming away all the paint and antiquing wax. Better include a Rosie the Riveter bandana ;)

  17. Erica says:

    I guess I slightly disagree with your point on “the right paint.” I’m not a fan of chalk paint. I do use latex paint on furniture with or without distressing, and depending on the piece, have used Rustoleum spray paint to great success. It is certainly a different technique, but used correctly can be a great finish.

    • Hi Erica! I think you’re right–it’s a different technique. Considering that you’ve used chalk paint and other paints (Latex, Rustoleum, etc.) it could be a matter of experience and personal preference. For beginners I would definitely recommend some sort of paint made specially for furniture, because there’s less chance of “messing” it up. But you’re right, after you sort of know what you’re doing, you can experiment with other types. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)

  18. Lorie B. says:

    Love your article! I agree that there are times when painting a piece of furniture is a really bad idea. My standard is that if it is a classic or antique piece and can be refinished then I will. Most of the classic or antique furniture I paint is painted because the piece is in such bad shape there is no choice…just to make it pretty and usable again. Number one motto of mine is: furniture that can’t be used due to its condition, is useless furniture….lets make it usable and extend it’s life.

    • Hi Lorie! Great motto! We DIYers do something great by bringing it back to life, don’t we? Think of how much less is in the dumpsters now because of us! :) Thanks so much for commenting!


  19. Denise says:

    Just because something is old, doesn’t make it valuable OR beautiful. I’ve got some hideous family ‘heirlooms’ with horrible finishes that I don’t feel any qualms about refinishing. Now if it is a valuable antique, that’s something quite different. My Mom used what was called an ‘antiquing kit’ on some bedroom furniture which is coming off now, and I can’t wait to see what I can do with it. I think it was back in the 70’s, now it just looks like really dirty blue furniture with big chunks of the finish coming off revealing the natural wood under it, ick. Not in an attractive way like Annie Sloan chalk paint…

    • Hi Denise! You’ve got a point there! There’s a bunch of old crap at the thrift store that I would paint in a heartbeat! LOL And I think some chippy furniture like what you’re describing is definitely in need of some paint!! :) Thanks for commenting!!!

  20. Kiwee Mears says:

    Hi Serena-

    Great article. I do have 1 question after applying
    The stripper and cleaning it up if say I’m doing a
    Dresser would it be necessary to sand it
    Before staining it ?

    Thank you

    • Hi Kiwee!

      Yes, after you’ve stripped it and cleaned all the stripper off, you definitely want to sand it down, and then use like a cheese cloth to make sure all the dust is removed. Maybe this will help. It related to chairs, but you can use this info for any stripping project:


      Hope that helps!! Hope you’ll subscribe and come back for more projects! :) Let me know if you have any more questions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *